“It’s a (More Meaningful,) Wonderful Life” When You Know You’ve Made a Difference

December 11, 2011

By Nora Firestone of Thanking of You.com

Do you recall the most meaningful gift the temporarily down-heartened George Bailey received in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”?

Was it a designer jacket that perfectly complemented his sparkling eyes?

Was it the new luxury car he’d been admiring all year long?

Could George Bailey’s most valued gift possibly have been showcased within 30 seconds of commercial air time today?  Possibly.  Maybe.

That lasting, most profound gift of a lifetime bestowed upon a suicidal Mr. George Bailey of Bedford Falls back on Christmas Eve, 1946 was the gift of discovering the profound, lasting impact he’d had on the lives of others during his lifetime.

George Bailey’s selfless and understated contributions to the members of his family and his community had far-reaching ripple effects.  Purely by virtue of his good nature and integrity he’d unwittingly helped beautifully shape the lives of generations–lives that could have been squashed if left solely to the influence of, say, the selfish slumlord Mr. Potter.

George Bailey lives on in the spirits of real people we encounter every day.  Perhaps a handful are also feeling down-heartened this season–who among us really knows?  What we do know is that those people who’ve touched our lives in lasting, positive ways deserve to know it.  They deserve–and maybe even need–to discover when, how and to whom they’ve made a difference and why it still matters today.

Not so sure the concept really holds any weight?  Count how many times this Christmas classic airs this month, 65 years later than the date in which this impactful drama was set.  Watch it yourself and examine your own response with honesty.

During this season of giving consider posting your story/ies of gratitude (message/s of thanks) at www.ThankingOfYou.com, in written or video form, to recognize, affirm and honor the gifts of those who’ve made a difference in your life.  Detail the direct effects of their gifts to you and how you’ve opened those gifts again and anew for all they were worth at different stages throughout your life.

Recall the contributions of a family member, old (or new) friend, mentor, teacher, charitable organization, spiritual leader, and/or even a stranger.  Reach out with the gifts of a lifetime–the gifts of self-discovery that only you can give–for those people on your gift gratitude list this season.

Go ahead.  You have my permission and my blessing.  Re-gift.

You’re amazing; now go be yourself,

Nora Firestone is a freelance news reporter in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  ThankingOfYou.com is the free Web-based forum for posting and receiving stories of gratitude (messages of thanks) for the people who’ve made a difference in our lives.  Who have you been meaning to thank?  Who on Earth has been Thanking of You?  Gratitude affirms life.  Express yours at ThankingOfYou.com


Thanks, Giving and the Value of it All

November 18, 2011

Thanking of You

If someone bestowed upon you this wish, May you receive in life one-hundred times what you’ve given to others, would you consider it a blessing or a curse?

Most of the gifts for which we can be most thankful throughout a lifetime aren’t tangible at all.  Don’t be ashamed if you can’t cram lavish material presents into your budget this holiday season.  Instead, bestow the gifts by which, if you were to receive them in-turn one-hundred-fold, you’d be truly blessed and somehow closer to God.

You’re amazing,

Nora Firestone is the founder of ThankingOfYou.com, the Web-based forum for posting and receiving stories of gratitude (messages of thanks) for the people who’ve made a difference in our lives.  Who have you been meaning to thank?  Who on Earth has been Thanking of You?  Gratitude affirms life.  Express yours at ThankingOfYou.com

Oprah’s Lifeclass; @ Harel from Israel

November 5, 2011

Thanking of You

Oprah Winfrey said it herself:

We all want to know we’re appreciated.
“People just want to be seen and heard, and everybody wants to know that ‘they matter.'”

That particular Oprah’s Lifeclass conversation began with a reference to Wednesday’s Lifeclass with guest Toni Morrison and segued into a Skype call from Harel, a young Israeli man, who told Oprah and co-host Iyanla Vanzant the following:

“As I’m going through my spiritual evolution, I realize there was one thought, one belief, that was keeping me back and holding me back.

“And the belief is, your life is small and insignificant.

“And this belief I think is why I’m looking for external validation; why I’m looking for acceptance and approval from other people.

“So my question for you, teachers of the world, is, ‘How do I move away from that, knowing intellectually this isn’t true, and how do I validate myself?'”

Obviously moved, Oprah read his original question to producers, which contained, “I’m waiting for someone to hold my face, look me in the eye and say, ‘You are not just a small-town boy with no name.  Your life does matter.'”

Stage to screen, Iyanla asked Harel to “give me your face, c’mon . . .

“Look at me, look, look, look; can you see me?” she asked him.  Then she declared, in no uncertain terms, “You matter.

You matter.

“You are not just an insignificant small-town little boy.  You matter.  And this ocean of life would not be the same without the drop of life that you are.   You matter.  You matter just as you are.  You matter.

Harel took a moment, apparently to digest this morsel of sustenance.  Oprah asked how it felt to have his face virtually “caressed.”

“I think if you want someone to validate you it has to be someone you can believe is telling the truth,” he said.  “So, as far as Iyanla is concerned, I believe.”

Oprah and Iyanla proposed that being of service to others is the best way to demonstrate that one can and does “matter” in the fabric of life.

“What matters most” however, “is that you understand that it matters,” Oprah clarified.  “But the question isn’t how do I become significant; the questions is, how do I serve.

“If you want to know that you matter to somebody you gotta figure out a way to give.”

Harel already does, as he works with people with disabilities, he said.  Oprah and Iyanla know he matters, simply by virtue of the fact that his creator gave him a place in this world.  Scores of Lifeclass participants chimed in via Facebook to confirm and affirm.  And none of us even know Harel!  Imagine the power infused in just one single heartfelt, detailed story of gratitude (message of thanks) delivered to him by someone who actually does know him.  Someone who knows exactly when, how and to whom Harel has “mattered” and why it made a difference?  Perhaps a mother, father, brother, sister or friend of one of the people whose lives Harel touches everyday?

As Harel told Oprah, it’s important that the affirmation or validation is genuine and comes from a trusted source.   In every delivery of a heartfelt message of gratitude there’s only one trusted source: the person delivering it.  Only that person can detail the immeasurable value of another’s contribution as it uniquely pertains to his/her own life.  That’s not to say that a million people can’t thank the same person for the same contribution; rather it’s to reiterate the fact that the ways in which we matter to others are as unique and varied as the individuals involved in the exchange.

In other words, we all matter.  We’re all making a difference in the lives of others every day.  The choice about what kind of difference and how we will matter is ours.  The effects of our contributions, though, we cannot accurately and completely predict.  And it’s only in the detailed expression of gratitude–sometimes even years later–that one can ever discover when, how and to whom he or she has made a difference, and why it mattered.

Thank you, Oprah and Iyanla, for facilitating a great discussion.

Thank you, Harel, for a most important call.  Harel, I have a place where you will “matter” more than you can imagine if you’re up for giving a little bit more of your fabulous self on behalf of people worldwide who deserve to know they make a difference.  Please contact me.

You’re amazing, now go be yourself,

People come and go in a lifetime, often never knowing the lasting, positive impact they’ve had on another.  Who have you been meaning to thank?  Who on Earth might be Thanking of You?  Gratitude affirms life.  Express yours at www.ThankingOfYou.com 

Nora Firestone is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, freelance journalist and founder of ThankingOfYou.com, the Web-based forum for posting and receiving stories of gratitude (messages of thanks) for the people who’ve made a difference in our lives.  You may contact her directly at (757) 705-7174 (calls only; no text messages) or at nfirestone@verizon.net

The Internal Call to “Make a Difference” is Driven by the Echo of Gratitude

October 26, 2011

Thanking of You

How many times this week will you hear the call to “make a difference”?  Now, perhaps more than ever, the concept’s broadcast loud and clear on television, radio, in print and as the underlying tone for positive movements worldwide. 

At the core of the concept stands the fact that the desire to be “making a difference” in the lives of others is a powerful motivator–often much more powerful than money, fame or most any other tangible or intangible incentive.  Just ask any volunteer or nonprofit staff. 

People need to know they’re making a difference in the world around them; they need to understand the value of their strengths, the gifts they’ve given to others without even realizing it and their lasting influences in the lives of others.  When people answer the call to make a difference they’re calling out–albeit often quietly, humbly and sometimes even anonymously–to be known to someone for making a difference.

Naturally, therefore, helping people to discover when, how and to whom they’re making that difference and why it’s mattered has the power to add immeasurable value to their lives in return.

The older, wiser and more experienced we become, the more relevance this fully-fleshed concept has to our individual lives–either as people with the desire to express gratitude for those who’ve made a difference in our lives or as people with the desire to discover how we’ve made that difference.  The fantastic perpetual nature of the virtue of gratitude keeps the two spinning in alignment, as 1: the more we focus on that/whom for which we’re grateful, the stronger and more relevant the contributions of the original goodness grow within our own lives and 2: the genuine, detailed expression of such gratitude often re-fuels the recipients with fresh perspectives for self-discovery and affirmation of “life’s purpose,” inspiring a continuum of that goodness for the benefit of others–and, ironically and paradoxically, for their own benefits as well.

Hence my longtime proposal that “gratitude is the most sustainable and renewable of all human resources.”  Do yourself an organic favor: cultivate it and harvest it often.  Reflect upon the contributions of those for whom you’re grateful and share the bounty of your epiphanies with them, either privately, by phone or note, or publicly, in a forum such as ThankingOfYou.com, where they can receive it even if you don’t have their contact information.  Either way, the point is to thank them by highlighting the details that tell them what they want to know: Have I made a lasting, positive difference to someone, somewhere, at some time; and how?

Two-Minute Power Meeting: Brief visualization and reflection (once daily is better than once ever!) . . .

        Where in your world do you want to “make a difference”?

        Why do you want to “make a difference”?

        How will you begin to make that difference today?

Post your comments here to share your realizations.  Consider reflecting on who’s made a difference in your life, as well.  Share that by posting a story of gratitude to them for all the world to see at ThankingOfYou.com.    (Consider thanking charitable organizations, too.)

Quick updates:   
Cheryl Tan of WAVY 10 News (our local NBC affiliate) aired a great segment about ThankingOfYou.com this month on the Hampton Roads Show!  Here’s the link to the segment online: http://www.wavy.com/dpp/hr_show/wildcard_118/problem-Thanking-of-you

     Thank you to Cathy Lewis and the crew at public radio WHRV’s HearSay for showcasing Shoot for Good and ThankingOfYou.com October 4!  Great experience with one of the best in broadcast radio! 

You’re amazing, now go be yourself,

Who have you been meaning to thank?  Who on Earth might be Thanking of You?

Real vs. Temporary: Gratitude for Lasting Friendships

October 19, 2011

By Cheyenne Grimstead
Teen correspondent

One of the main issues in high school is keeping friends. Besides people choosing to go their separate ways, things happen. Some people are meant to be a lifelong friend, while some are only temporary. When there’s a friend who you can really call your “best friend,” you need to tell them how much you appreciate them.

I have a very good friend who I met in 7th grade. Now we’re in 10th, and still the best of friends. We consider each other cousins and call each other’s moms “aunt.” What makes her different is that she doesn’t like drama (with girls) and she doesn’t do or say anything to involve herself in any. She’s more focused on her school work, artwork, and few close friends that she has.

Some people, even in the adult world, have few close friends as a consequence. Others, like me and my best friend, have few close friends by choice. You can’t trust everyone you speak to. You also have to be your own person. You can’t be the type to let what someone says effect your thinking and how you react to a situation. You have a brain for a reason: to think and make decisions for yourself.

Some friends make you think twice about why you have them as “friends.” But when you have that one friend who’s always there for you, is trustworthy, you can be yourself around them and not have to worry about being judged, you should appreciate him/her. Tell that person how grateful you are to be best friends and to have him or her in your life. A real friend actually cares.

Temporary friends come and go as they please. They’ll talk about you behind your back and smile to your face – unlike a real friend. The question you ultimately ask yourself is, “Would I rather have everyone like me, or would I rather have that one special friend who actually cares?” Give thanks and be grateful for your real friends. Don’t take them for granted. Some people would love to have even one.

“Aha” Moments Illustrate the Power of Gratitude to Fuel Nonprofit Movements

August 2, 2011

By Nora Firestone
This article was recently published in Inside Business magazine.

Feeling mid-lifeish back in 1991, local newspaper reporter Marjorie Mayfield Jackson sensed the tug to “make a difference” somewhere in this big world.  So she reflected in her quiet little corner of it for six months, watching the mullet jump, “the great blue herons stalking the wetland grasses” and the night herons roosting in her mulberry tree from her yard on a cove of the Elizabeth River.

“I felt privileged to live in a very beautiful, very special corner of the Elizabeth River . . . where wildlife seemed undisturbed,” she recently told me, but “at the same time it was very painful to know that this was such a dirty river, the fish had cancer.

“Over the course of the six months,” Jackson shared with Mutual of Omaha CQ insurance company’s Aha Moment film crew in June, “I just came to this realization (that) what I really wanted to do with my life, what would really make a difference, would be to clean up the river.”

So Jackson quit her job to found the Elizabeth River Project, with three other volunteers, and has since grown the organization to engage more than 200 businesses and schools through its River Star initiatives for watershed cleanups, marine habitat restoration and ongoing stewardship of local waterways.  Since ’97 River Star Businesses “have cumulatively reduced pollution by more than 215 million pounds . . . and have restored or conserved more than 1,100 acres of urban wildlife habitat,” Jackson said. E.R.P. recently launched the River Star Homes program, bringing residents of the watershed onboard.  The “over-arching goal,” Jackson noted, “is to make the Elizabeth River safe for swimming and fishing by 2020.”

The 2011 Aha Moment tour will feature inspiring, life-changing “Aha” moment stories, taped inside the campaign’s mobile film studio during 25 stops nationwide, including those of 44 people in Hampton Roads, Va., recorded during the June 13 and 14 landing at Norfolk’s Waterside.  Folks can view those at: http://ahamoment.com/moments/search?page=1&search[q]=&search[tour_stop]=25

Organizers contacted many of us directly, having searched in advance for locals who they thought modeled positive action and might inspire others with personal insights.

I felt honored when they asked me to share the inspiration behind the creation of ThankingOfYou.com, the Web-based forum for posting and receiving messages of thanks for the people who’ve made a difference in our lives.  The deepest sense of gratitude, I believe, thrives at a level whereby one has recognized the goodness in someone or something, affirmed the significance of that goodness in one’s own life, and strives to honor that affirmation by acting accordingly for the benefit of oneself and of others.  It’s important to express it and it’s important to receive it.  Gratitude’s a powerful motivator.

I call it the Transistor Virtue because in cultivating that deepest sense of gratitude one becomes intentional in receiving the goodness as meaningful and switching it to a path of amplification.  Like the sounds of music, spoken poetry or even herons on the river, this experience moves people to think, feel and act.  I’ve long proposed that “gratitude is the most sustainable and renewable of all human resources” for its inherent power to spark positivity and naturally fuel its continuum.  And just as I’d suspected, so many “Aha” movements have been inspired and fueled by the power of gratitude and the subsequent desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

“I think gratitude springs from love and wonder,” Jackson said.  “I was motivated by a mix of gratitude—for the solace and the beauty and the unending wonder of (the Elizabeth River)—juxtaposed with a sorrow, a shame and awareness of a need that was not being addressed.

“To come from a place of gratitude is to come from a place of grace, instead of from a place of anger,” she added.  Fear and anger “motivate for the short term, but only love motivates long-term change.

“Love spawns gratitude, or vice versa.”

A blend of fear, disappointment and, yes, gratitude, inspired now-retired Chesapeake police captain Gene Saunders to establish Project Lifesaver International, CQ a rapid-response lifesaving program that provides the technology, education, training and network necessary for successful search and rescue missions involving children and adults who are prone to wander.

Saunders recalled “several (cases) where we were unable to find them” back in his days as a standard search and rescue specialist.  “It keeps coming back to you,” he said.  “When you have an unsuccessful search, that weighs heavy on you.  It’s just a tremendous, draining, depressing feeling.

“Then you see the uplift on people’s faces, and the appreciation,” when their loved ones have been found, he said.  “And that’s just fuel for the soul.”

That fuel sparked the impetus of Project Lifesaver in 1998.  The organization, now affiliated with 1,200 law enforcement and safety agencies within 46 states and abroad, just celebrated its 2,400th rescue.

But it hasn’t been easy, Saunders said.  He encountered mostly nay-sayers at the start and plenty of obstacles to his overall vision along the way.

“There’s always some mountain to climb,” he said.  “There are some low times when you wonder, ‘Why am I doing this; why am I fighting so many battles?’”

But Saunders has a passion and he’s been able to remain focused on those people and agencies that’ve supported his mission.

“Project Lifesaver is not a one-person show,” he explained.  “It takes many people to believe in what you’re doing and jump in with both feet.”  He feels deep gratitude for the support they give “because they don’t have to,” he said.  “That’s when you feel a different level of elation, or gratitude. You’re grateful because this person believes in you without any (apparent) reason.”  In other words, it’s a gift—not necessarily earned; not guaranteed to offer the giver anything in return.  Except, maybe, the heartfelt gratitude of beneficiaries.

As letters arrive from families and agencies, thanking Project Lifesaver for its immeasurable gifts, that “keeps you going on that level that you need to be on,” Saunders said.  “When you have a passion for something it takes a lot of energy and you don’t realize it.  The voice of gratitude re-inspires you; it just kind of rejuvenates you.  It’s the fuel that keeps me going.”

Musician MaryAnn Toboz’s “Aha” moment landed by that very expression.

“Thank you,” an elderly woman had told her after Toboz had performed at a local nursing home.  “Please don’t forget us.”

Toboz felt the depth of appreciation from a lonely resident and decided she wouldn’t forget them.  Instead, she’d build a community of like-minded artists to provide frequent and purposeful entertainment to elder seniors.  Since establishing Tidewater Arts Outreach in 2003, Toboz’s mission has grown to incorporate an array of traveling performing and visual arts programs, serving about 70 locations throughout Hampton Roads, including nursing homes, shelters, crisis centers, hospitals and programs for people with special needs.  Rather than perform to their audiences the artists engage them.

“It’s evolved to really sharing the gift of (creating) art to self-express” and to help professionals “understand the value of art in healthcare,” Toboz said.  “Artists have gifts and they’re meant to be shared.  And they know it,” she explained.  “When you’re able to share a gift, and when it’s genuinely appreciated, that is so rewarding.

“You have to be in tune with what people want,” she added.  Therefore, the expression of gratitude is a guiding force.

Toboz said she works hard to show gratitude to her board of directors, artists and all who “give so much” to help to sustain her mission.  “(Gratitude) has changed my life,” she said.  “I’m so grateful to be in this position” to help others.

Nora Firestone, nfirestone@verizon.net

Nora Firestone is a Virginia Beach-based journalist and the founder of ThankingOfYou.com, the free Web-based forum for posting and receiving stories of gratitude (messages of thanks) to recognize, affirm and honor the people who’ve made a difference in our lives.  She can be reached via e-mail at nfirestone@verizon.net.  Visit www.ThankingOfYou.com for more information and to thank those who’ve made a difference in your life.

Teen Perspective: Gratitude for Family Forever

July 20, 2011

Thanking of You

Family Forever

By Cheyenne Grimstead
Teen correspondent

What is family? Family means love, support, memories and growth.  A family is a group of people who are related to one another.  No matter how big or small, a family is a family.

Kids with dreams need support.  They should be able to turn to their parents/guardians without hesitation.  If your family is supportive, you should be thankful because as painful as the truth is, some parents aren’t supportive enough.  If you are as blessed as I am to have a supportive mother, you should really be thankful.

A casual “thanks” has meaning, but a sincere “thank you” has feeling and recognition of how much the action taken really means to you.  Families should have built-in support, but sometimes you might have to talk to them about how you’d like them to help.  Families require communication.  Talking to your family and letting them know you appreciate their “I love you” s, help and support will make them thankful that they are related to you.


Who have you been meaning to thank?  Who on Earth has been Thanking of You?  Gratitude affirms life.  Express yours at www.ThankingOfYou.com


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